Australian ad spend hits pre-COVID high in May

The Australian ad market has surpassed pre-COVID levels for the first time since the pandemic, with Standard Media Index (SMI) data showing the May figures represent a 4.5% (or $30.7 million) increase on May 2019 ad spend. That result is based on data that’s been normalised to account for the Federal Election that occurred in May 2019 by removing Political Party category ad spend from both reporting periods.

The results have prompted SMI AUNZ managing director Jane Ractliffe to call the results “unprecedented” and “extraordinary”.

Jane Ractliffe

“And, we’re now seeing all major media reporting growth in May – with TV and digital back to pre-COVID levels – so it’s really quite a remarkable turnaround given the disastrous results reported at this time last year,” she said.

The results follow an increase in April of 39.7% and 2.1% in March, after two consecutive months of  downwards ad spend.

Ractliffe added that the stronger ad demand will continue in June with SMI’s Forward Pacings data showing the value of confirmed June ad spend (excluding digital) is already 36.4% above that reported in June 2020. However, those figures were ahead of the recent lockdowns that have been imposed across the country.

Prior to the recent spate of lock-downs and border closures, the travel sector had emerged as the fastest growing in May, with total travel ad bookings jumping by $31.3 million from May 2020 levels.

The media investment by travel advertisers increased from $4 million in May 2020 to $36.3 million  in may 2021, and that total is not far off from the $44 million spent in May 2019. However, those figures are unlikely to be maintained for June and July.

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In May, SMI also saw the outdoor media sector report a 198% increase in year-on-year growth, and that trend is expected to continue into June, with Ractliffe adding that they can already see outdoor’s ad spend is 90% above that reported in June 2020.

“In Australia the total May outdoor ad spend is just $6 million below the pre-COVID May 2019 totals, while in New Zealand the outdoor media has already exceeded its May 2019 total,” she added. In April, the highest growth area was digital audio which was up 97.1%, while radio grew 37.6%.

According to Ractliffe one of the most encouraging signs from the May results, was the emergence of the Social Media sector as digital’s second largest for the first time, while in outdoor the Programmatic Outdoor sector broke through the $1 million/month revenue mark for the first time.

The stronger May results have now pushed Australian ad spend this calendar year up 20.1% on last year while the financial year-to-date results have now up 2.9%.


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